By Leslie D. Rose
One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college.
The statistic comes from the WhiteHouse.Gov fact sheet Not Alone, an attempt to protect students from sexual assault. Unfortunately many college campuses boast very small numbers when it comes to sexual and domestic assault. It is likely that these smaller figures are only 10% of the assaults actually happening.
At Louisiana’s flagship university, LSUPD’s most recent annual report (2013) shows just 10 forcible on-campus sex offenses and no non-forcible offenses from 2010 through 2012. The numbers reflect student reports to LSUPD, but over at LSU Health Center’s Lighthouse Program (previously known as Sexual Assault Victim’s Advocacy or SAVA), the numbers are much higher.
According to information gathered by the program, there were 19 reports in 2012, 28 in 2013 and 11 so far in 2014. According to LSUPD Captain Cory Lalonde, the numbers between his department and the Lighthouse Program differ because most of the offenses reported to Lighthouse occur off-campus making them solely BRPD reports as opposed to an on-campus crime that would see his office before BRPD.
Lighthouse Program coordinator Seirra Fowler explained that the numbers reflected in her office’s reports reflect various types of assaults including stalking, relationship violence, domestic violence and sexual assault. She said she expects that the numbers for 2014 will be comparable to 2013 because the center tends to see more reports in the fall semester. But overall, she said she is sure that the number of assaults is not rising higher, but rather more offenses simply being reported.
“We definitely don’t think that there’s more assaults occurring,” Fowler said. “We think that there’s just more people knowing about program.”
Over the last few years, the program revamped its services, advertisement and changed its name to exclude the word “victim” to make it more appealing as a safe place to discuss offenses, but this is work that the program cannot do all its own especially when so many more offenses have come to light since the Whitehouse revealed its Not Alone campaign.
On Aug. 15, STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response) unveiled a new social messaging strategy for increasing awareness of sexual assault among college students called Consent Campaign 2014.
According to a press release about the initiative, STAR worked with several LSU undergraduate students to develop the social messaging campaign targeted at young adults aged 18 to 28 to educate the community about the meaning of consent. The campaign includes images and messages meant to impact young adults’ thoughts and behaviors regarding the connection between alcohol use and sexual activity.
Executive Director of STAR Racheal Hebert said that the campaign placed its focus on voluntary consumption of alcohol because lots of conversation and prevention training is rather aimed at reducing risk for date rape drugs.
“Usually, when we do hear about voluntary drug/alcohol use by survivors, it is framed in the context of blame or shame, such as What was s/he thinking? or Why was s/he drinking?,” she said. “In reality, we are all sexual subjects afforded the basic human right to decide when, how, where and with whom to engage in sexual activity, regardless of our decision to voluntarily consume alcohol/drugs.”
“We noticed that many of the survivors coming forward tended to have used alcohol and/or drugs immediately prior to experiencing an assault,” she continued. “Furthermore, we noticed that, according to the survivors, they had connected with their rapist, usually an acquaintance, friend, or partner, prior to consuming drugs/alcohol, leading us to believe that perpetrators used alcohol and/or drugs to help facilitate and incapacitate their victims.”
Hebert said during research, her team came across a study conducted by forensic consultant David Lisak that confirmed their theories of voluntarily consumption and assault.
Lisak’s study was conducted with 1,882 men, and asked questions regarding their sexual activity in regards to violence. The study showed that, 6.4% of participants met criteria for rape or attempted rape. A majority of these men, 80.8%, reported committing rapes of women who were incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol. He also found from these perpetrators that they identified their victims prior to their consumption of alcohol, and subsequently participated in forcing drinks/drugs on their victim.
According to Lisak, the idea that getting somebody intoxicated so you can have sex with them is an idea that just simply has to be confronted and eroded.
“This exactly what the Consent Campaign is trying to do,” Hebert said. “We at STAR are prompting viewers to consider the implications of using alcohol/drugs and engaging in sexual activity, while also raising awareness about how perpetrators often consciously use alcohol as a tool to facilitate the rapes they commit, knowing that by doing so it will be easier to commit rape and that their victim will be less likely to report it.”
The posters that Consent Campaign 2014 is using were developed by a group of LSU graphic design students. The student group created several messages and images based on their independent research and focus groups with students on campus. STAR then took the images and messages and conducted focus groups with advocates, staff and additional student groups at LSU.
In addition to the posters, STAR will be publishing blog posts to expand upon the campaign messages and provide additional information. These will be published in the first half of September.
Visit BRStar.org to view the campaign images.
If anyone is triggered by the by the information in this article, Hebert encourages you to connect with the STAR 24/7 hotline number: (225) 383-RAPE.